Lately, in my writing endeavors, I have met resistance. I am not talking about an issue with my writing, but a real human concern. I am astonished at the number of individuals who have a disregard for moral values and justice. In today’s society, it seems if someone commits a crime, as long as that person does no harm directly to you and that individual treats you “nice” or “good” (by your standards), or you can benefit from them or their crime, it makes the crime and the criminal acceptable. The means of the act is justified so long as we can justify the ends—the benefit. I find the very idea of this crippling.
In my writing, I have received a notable amount of encouragement and advice from some of the top writers in the industry. When my writing has been critiqued, people have always remarked positively about my writing. Adversely, my nonfiction work has ignited emotions in some people who feel I hold a disregard for the human condition simply because I feel if a person commits a crime against another person, he or she should be held accountable for their actions. The only extenuating circumstances I allow for is self-defense and survival.
Is my life unblemished? No. I am stained. However, I have atoned for my transgressions as best I can in this life. I do not set myself above others, but I am perplexed over the lack of conscious effort and the lack of thought people put into what matters most in life, things such as moral virtue, honesty, justice and faith.
When Jonathan Swift wrote “A Modest Proposal”, or when Charles Darwin worked out “On the Origin of Species”, they each dealt with public ridicule and the scrutiny of their peers. I get that. According to historical records, their families even questioned their motives and their work. I get that too! However, one thing is certain, they did not sacrifice their principles because of the pressures placed on them by their families, friends, peers, or the public. Why not? Because, they believed in themselves and in their cause.
Where or when in history did we as a society decide it is permissible to allow a crime to go unpunished and excused? If an individual has wronged another individual and he or she is not held accountable, prosecuted or publicly exposed, then the criminal has not only wronged the victim, but everyone who has made excuses for the criminal has become a criminal and has vicariously victimized the victim along with the criminal—hence, accomplice.
I can speak from experience. There were times throughout my childhood when adults should have intervened, times when I was being battered around. I was a child. I looked to adults whom I trusted to step in. They did not. They turned their cheeks and ignored the abuse I was suffering. They made a choice, I did not understand them not taking control of the situation. I looked at them with the same contempt I had for my attacker. They did not attack me, but they had the power to step in and they chose to do nothing. They were just as responsible for the crime as the criminal was, because they did nothing to stop the victimization.
I recall an afternoon when I was about twenty-six-years-old. I had just finished working and I was heading home. It was about 4:45pm. It was the middle of the summer. I always drove hot rods, I was an automobile mechanic. I was in my 1971 Roadrunner, Hurst shifter, dual Holley carburetors and a six-pack under the hood. One fast car! The windows were down and I was at a stoplight. The car was in neutral. I heard someone screaming. I looked out my rearview mirror and there was a man beating the crap out of a young woman. He was dragging her by the hair and when he reached the street, he threatened to thrust her into oncoming traffic. For a split moment, I considered hitting the gas pedal and getting the hell out of there. I jumped out of the car. I quickly and gracefully escorted the man to the ground. When he tried to get up, he met resistance—the sole of my shoe against his throat. The young woman was crying. By that time, the police had arrived. My point is not that I was some kind of hero or savior, my point is, had I drove off and the young woman met her death by way of oncoming traffic, as was clearly the man’s intentions, by doing nothing, I would have been just as responsible as the man who through her into traffic. I could not accept those terms.
I implore you to search deep within your character. Whenever something is not right, it is wrong. It is nobody’s responsibility to do what is right except yours. Moral values in today’s society are on a rapid decline. Until each one of us does our part in elevating the level of accountability we have as individuals, and then we raise our expectations for the criminals, we will continue to feed a system encouraging criminal behavior. Morality and a Just social system are among the few things separating humanity from all other life-forms, to neglect its importance would be to have a total disregard for life itself!